Numlock News: July 7, 2022 • Infotainment, Nautilus, Polysilicon
By Walt Hickey
Plant outages at the facilities that produce polysilicon, the key component in solar panels, led to the price of the component hitting $43.50 a kilogram on Wednesday, the highest level seen since 2011. Prices have risen for their sixth consecutive week and have now entered what’s described as an extreme supply shortage according to manufacturers. July output in China is expected to only be 58,000 tons, down 3,200 from June.
Interactive infotainment systems in cars are potentially dangerous sources of distraction for drivers. While 98 percent of people polled say they’re concerned about distracted driving as a safety issue, 70 percent also said they themselves use their cellphones while driving, according to Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety. But one big distraction is the screen in the car itself; the NHTSA recommends that infotainment systems should distract a driver’s attention for no more than six seconds at a time, but those are just voluntary guidelines, and many actions tested by actual researchers take 12 seconds or more to carry out. There’s lots of money in those systems for manufacturers: In-car advertising, entertainment and consumer data will be a projected $11 billion business by 2030.
In 2010, the Estate of Michael Jackson and Sony Music released Michael, a posthumous compilation of music from Jackson. In 2014, a fan launched a class-action lawsuit, alleging that several of the tracks were inauthentic and contained vocals that were not actually recorded by Jackson himself. In 2018, the estate and Sony won a judgement over the vocals finding that the statements on the cover of the album were commercial speech and protected, which eagle-eyed readers may observe is not the same thing as finding yeah, that’s definitely Michael Jackson. This week, the label and the estate yanked three songs — “Breaking News,” “Monster” and “Keep Your Head Up” — from streaming services in an attempt to “move beyond the conversation.” Good luck, just ask Barbra Streisand about what kind of effect that’ll have.
The state of Oregon is experimenting with a new form of sentencing for convicted wildlife traffickers, directing them to use their court-mandated community service hours to explain to researchers how exactly they did business. This gives researchers an unprecedented direct look into the operations of hidden networks of poachers and thieves. Last September, a turtle smuggler was sentenced — in addition to five years of probation and thousands in fines and restitution — to 500 hours of community service spent explaining his business to a University of Maryland professor who researches wildlife crime. Just this past June, another Oregon-based trafficker was sentenced to two years of probation, a $5,000 fine and 250 hours of explaining his work to the same researcher.
Researchers have been trying to figure out how to mitigate the substantial climate impact of training large AI models. In order to get a large model trained, there are lots of hours of CPU and GPU time that’s required, and a new facet of AI research is how to attain those goals with minimal carbon emissions. One new analysis found that just by using servers in specific geographic locations and at particular times of day — ideally, areas with substantial green energy usage and times where that energy production is under-utilized — small machine learning models can reduce their carbon impacts by 80 percent, and emissions for large models can be decreased by 20 percent just by pausing the training work when the renewable energy output is lower.
From April 2021 through last month, a 23-terabyte data file belonging to the Shanghai police containing 970 million rows of names, birthdays, addresses and IDs of Chinese citizens was left available to the internet to access without the need of a password. In what certainly appears to be the largest cybersecurity breach in China and among the largest in the world, a hacker took it, deleted it and demanded 10 bitcoin if they wanted it back. That amount matches the amount that a user sought as of last Thursday on a cybercrime forum seeking to sell a billion records of Chinese citizens’ information, so, seems like we have an auction here people.
The nautilus has endured through at least five of Earth’s mass extinction events, but the Anthropocene is turning into a rough one for the species. The mollusks have the misfortune of having pretty, symmetrical shells, shells that can sell for up to $1,000 on eBay. From 2005 to 2014, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service data shows that about 100,000 whole nautilus shells were imported into the United States alone, along with 800,000 nautilus shell parts. The species, which was once abundant in the Philippines, may be extinct there, and that’s not even getting into climate change.
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